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363

Blandly, in a pained surprise, Wilkins turned, "I didn't
mean a thing," he declared.

One after another they mounted the stand, and raised the
right hand, and listened while the words were said to them:
" —solemnly swear—will be the truth—nothing but the truth.
So help you God."

" I do," each one said, clearly or mumblingly, in answer to
that aimless, dreary intonation.

How many times, Mr. Munn thought, how many times
he had heard those words! Day after day, in this room,
addressed to all sorts of people, who raised the right hand,
swearing. He thought: the truth. Each person there, on
the stand, today, was telling the truth. The officials, with
their pieces of paper on which the figures were written, down
to a last penny, they were telling the truth: their truth.
That was what the event was to them. And the constable,
the truth to him—what had stuck in his mind and what he
would always mention, for years to come now, when he told
anybody about that night, what would stay in his mind when
he was very old and his past had begun to flow from him
and leave only a few little, dead fragments, stranded out of
time—the truth to him was the way the men had had trouble
with their masks when they tried to spit. And Miss Mayhew
would always remember the tangle of cut wires in the office,
just that, and the man's hand holding her arm coming down-
stairs. That was the truth to her. But her truth, and the
constable's truth, and the truths of the others, they were not
his own, which was, if any one thing seizable and namable,
that reeling moment of certainty and fulfilment when the air
had swollen ripely with the blast. But that had gone. Like
the blink of an eye; and would not come back. Even that
self he had been had slipped from him, and could only be
glimpsed now, paling and reproachful, in fits as when the
breeze worries a rising mist.

The truths of those people were not the truth that had been
his that night; but that truth was his no longer. The truth:
it devoured and blotted out each particular truth, each indi-